Cute commercials are not the best way to inform parents about brain injuries in sports, as the National Football League surely knows. Nonetheless, the league is deploying one of its best PR weapons — Tom Brady — to try to take the edge off parents’ rightful concerns about kids’ head injuries while playing football. Parents would do well to head for the kitchen whenever this particular commercial comes on.
The spot shows a mother telling Brady that her “little boy” loves playing football but wants to know what the NFL is doing to make the game safer. Brady introduces one man who says the league is developing new rules. Another man in a lab coat boasts the league is working with the NFL players union on medical research. The mother says, “Wow,” and is convinced to say, “Well, I feel a lot better about him playing.” Brady says, “Love to meet the little guy.” But the “little guy” turns out to be Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, offering a menacing glare. Brady says, “Cute kid.”
Chuckles aside, the spot is a cheap bit of NFL propaganda. It makes no mention of the concussions that knock star players out of game after game, nor the untold numbers of sub-concussive blows that have motivated about 3,500 former players to sue the league over alleged endangerment. If the NFL seriously cared about reassuring parents, it would instead recommend they consult with their child’s pediatrician to discuss the growing data on repetitive trauma in sports today.